Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet is the first book in a mystery series featuring the village of Nether Monkslip and ex-MI-5 agent turned village vicar, Max Tudor. So far there are five books in the series with the sixth book called, Devil’s Breath set for release in April of 2017.
Wicked Autumn begins in a tradition I quite enjoy and is reminiscent of past Agatha Christie novels. Upon opening the book you get a pen and ink drawing of the village of Nether Monkslip, a list of the cast of characters and a passage from a hymn. I like these touches because it allows you to get the lay of the land from the very first page and nicely sets the tone and imagery of the story right away.
The first chapter thrusts us headlong into the fray with a meeting of the Women’s Institute about the upcoming Harvest Fayre. Wanda Batton-Smythe is chief do-gooder and organizer and none feel her wrath as keenly as those who fall short of her expectations.
Wanda has more enemies than friends so it is no surprise when she turns up dead at the Harvest Fayre she so expertly bullied everyone into working at. When Max discovers the body his past training kicks in and he knows it wasn’t an accident.
Enter the Police Pod and the media to turn the quiet, idyllic village of Nether Monkslip on its head. Villagers are simultaneously entranced and repulsed by all the attention and Max just wants to stay out of Suzanna Winship’s crosshairs long enough to find the killer before they strike again.
Overall, Wicked Autumn is a quality introduction to a new detective and the beautiful, yet dysfunctional English village of Nether Monkslip. From a strategic writing point of view, Malliet has set the small village up nicely with a slow, unreliable train (great for alibis), a larger town nearby, an eccentric cast of village regulars and just enough of an influx of new residents to keep you guessing at who the murderer could be.
I have high hopes for the character of Suzanna Winship as she runs her mouth and keeps the village men on their toes and diving for cover. The Women’s Institute won’t know what has hit them with Suzanna in charge.
I get the feeling it will be tough going for Max in the future as he tries to keep both the spiritual and physical health of his parishioners intact. Will Max ever get to write his homilies in peace? Probably not, but I am not sure he would have it any other way.
G.M. Malliet is the winner of the 2008 Agatha Award for Best First Novel for Death of a Cozy Writer.
The Max Tudor Series (in order) so far:
Other Mysteries by G.M. Malliet you may want to try:
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